The NSW government will require two out of three Sydney NRL games to be played at ANZ Stadium, Allianz Stadium or Pirtek Stadium to justify its $1.6 billion investment into the ageing venues.
Renovation plans: Allianz Stadium at Moore Park forms part of the state government's stadium policy. Photo: Getty Images
The state government is in negotiations with all major sporting franchises over content agreements to ensure that a sufficient number of games will be secured for the three stadiums undertaking major works. Pirtek Stadium at Parramatta will be knocked down and rebuilt, as would Allianz at Moore Park, while the remaining funds will be used to give the former Olympic venue at Homebush Bay a much-needed makeover.
Figures provided by Champion Data show that 51.2 per cent of Sydney NRL games - excluding finals matches - between 2011 and 2016 have been played at the major three venues with the remainder played at suburban grounds. Fairfax Media can reveal that figure will need to rise to roughly two-thirds before the government commits to the major projects.
"The Premier and I made it clear that content was an important part of our stadium network," NSW Minister for Sport Stuart Ayres said.
"We've seen other states commit to stadiums and be well into the construction and build phase without having content agreements. We don't want to expose the NSW taxpayer to that type of risk.
"We want those content agreements renewed or enhanced so that we know we have the right amount of content to make the stadiums financially viable.
"There is plenty of sporting content available in Sydney, there is plenty of rectangular content in Sydney to underpin the financial position of these stadiums. We will be working with all of the sports around new or renewed content agreements.
"I'm comfortable with where we sit with that. In relation to the NRL, which is the most complex out of all of them because of the multiplicity of franchises. We're very happy with the work the NRL is doing with all of its clubs, we know having a whole-of game approach which is important to the government and the the NRL and we'll work with them on that."
Based on current venue allocation figures, about 15 games currently being played at suburban stadiums will have to move to the big three in order for the figures to stack up. That will raise further questions about the long-term viability of ageing grounds including Leichhardt, Brookvale and Jubilee ovals. Those boutique venues are struggling to remain of NRL standard and have no chance of procuring state government funding, which has been redirected towards the larger stadiums.
Asked what the developments meant for suburban grounds, Ayres said: "There's enough room for us to get the amount of content that we need and flexibility for clubs to choose the right venue for them. We don't want to dictate where individual clubs are. I'm not the CEO of the NRL and I'll leave it up to [ARL Commission chairman] John Grant and his team to make those determinations.
"What we want to be able to do is ensure they have a network of stadiums so they can choose the right venue for the right match."
Pirtek Stadium is scheduled to be demolished at the end of the current NRL season, with Ayres predicting the project will likely be complete by the "second half of 2019".
"For Moore Park, we have a detailed design brief stage we are about to enter, that will give us a lot more information [about time frames]," Ayres said.
"But I can be honest and say we wouldn't have a new stadium at Moore Park completed in this term of government, so it would be after that."
The NRL set a goal of growing average crowds to 20,000 as part of a five-year strategic plan released in 2012. But officials conceded the goal was unachievable only halfway through that period as crowd attendances continue to dwindle.
Ayres said Sydney had fallen behind the rest of the world, and the other Australian states, in relation to sporting infrastructure.
"To use a racing parlance, we're only just beating the ambulance," he said.
"We have to be honest with ourselves about that, if we don't invest in stadiums now we're going to fall further and further behind. The last significant stadium we built was in 1999, before that it was 1988. Every other national city that has major sporting franchises in it has redeveloped all of its stadiums in that period of time.
"Sydney sports fans deserve the best sporting facilities not just in Australia but in the world. We're a passionate sporting city.
"The other reason we need to do that is because sport continues to be an important driver of our state economy, particularly the tourism opportunities generated.
"We've seen in some sports the patronage and crowd figures hasn't grown. I'm strongly of the view the consumer has decided to get their sport somewhere else. We've got to do something different. No business will be successful if it's not investing in the quality of its product and for sport it's not just about what happens on the field siren to siren - it's about door to door, from when the fan leaves the house to when they come home.
"With the investment committed to by the Baird government, we're providing a suite of stadiums that will allow our sports fans access to the best facilities anywhere in the world."
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/...government-20160312-gnhcd5.html#ixzz42jLBqf8C
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